Why didn't Hashem answer the prayers of those tzadikim (Asara Harugei Malchus) whose lives were taken, especially when they were dying al kiddush Hashem?
Each case has to be judged separately. Take Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Akiva was tortured to death at the age of 120. Now you understand he wouldn't live much longer than that. He had lived a successful life. Rabbi Akiva had been very wealthy! Rabbi Akiva's second wife was a famous beauty. Rabbi Akiva had become so famous that his name resounded throughout the world: Ata Akiva ben Yosef sh'shimcha holech m'sof h'olam v'ad sofo. So there was nothing that he didn't accomplish for himself in this world. And Rabbi Akiva raised up disciples who gave to us the entire Torah – all the Torah comes from Akiva's disciples to us.
So now he would go to his bed, and get pneumonia like old people usually do, and he would die an unimportant and uneventful death? Instead, Rabbi Akiva died the death of a martyr, al kiddush Hashem, and he was able to fulfill in his last moments, v'ahavtah es Hashem Elokecha, I love Hashem, b'chol nafshecha, with all your life, even when He's taking your life. The story of Rabbi Akiva's martyrdom is in the Gemara as an example for our people forever and ever.
So what would've been better for Rabbi Akiva, to die of pneumonia, or to die the way he did? He made an exit like a great hero! Instead of lying in a coma with doctors standing around him, he was standing among Romans and his flesh was being combed off of him with iron combs. That's a picture for history! Rabbi Akiva desired nothing better than that. He made his exit in the most glorious way.
Each case has to be studied separately. In some cases the tzadikim served as object lessons. Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon, the gemara says why was he burned alive? And the gemara says, sh'hoyo hogeh es Hashem b'osyosov, he said the name of Hashem in public. He said the secret name, the ineffable name of Hashem he said in public. Now he did it for his reasons, but when he passed away in this manner it served as an object lesson for history; that when it comes to the glory of the Almighty's name, nobody will be spared. The greatest man has to be aware that he shouldn't transgress on the majesty of Hashem. And that's the great lesson that we learn from Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon.
Each case is a separate case. Hakadosh Baruch Hu listens to prayers, but when it comes to certain great lessons and great opportunities, then He says, you're praying for something that's not good for you. We pray and we say, You should fulfill kol mishalos libeinu l'tova, all the requests of our heart are for good. Hakadosh Baruch Hu says, sometimes there are things that are better than what you think are good, and therefore He bestows upon them those things that they may have not wanted, and still, it actually was for their greater benefit.
And that's why tzadikim don't always get what they wish. Sometimes they are praying for things that are the opposite of good, although they don't think so.
Good Shabbos To All
This is transcribed from questions that were posed to Harav Miller by the audience at the Thursday night lectures.
To listen to the audio of this Q & A please dial: 201-676-3210